As Bam Margera sees it, West Chester has always done right by him. The homegrown prankster/skater punk has used the quaint borough as a backdrop in episodes of such shows as MTV's
Viva La Bam
. Why, just last Christmas, cameras rolled while a parade of roller-skating Santas, accompanied by Margera and his then-fiancee in a horse-drawn carriage, dragged a Christmas tree down Gay Street.
Now Margera says he wants to do right by West Chester.
He and a business partner, bar owner Don Moore, plan to open a theater, capped by an old-fashioned marquee, in an empty storefront in the business district. Construction is under way for a projected opening in the spring.
The theater, so far unnamed, will book musical acts and stand-up comedians and will show films, they said.
Some town officials seem wary. The Borough Council this week will consider appealing the planned move of Moore's liquor license into the space, at 142 E. Market St., President H. Paul Fitzpatrick said.
"As soon as Bam's name was attached to it, everybody was looking at it as if he'd be setting cars on fire," said Fitzpatrick, who lives several blocks from the venue, which is near a park and a Salvation Army center.
He said he supported the idea for the theater. "If there's going to be an elephant in the parking lot, though, I have a problem," he said.
No elephants and no flaming cars, assured Margera, 28, who may be showing signs of maturity since his wedding early this year. Margera and his wife, Missy, live in nearby Pocopson Township, where three years ago he ran afoul of local officials by taping on his property; this summer, the township agreed to let him work there under certain conditions.
The theater - decorated ornately with curtains and French chandeliers - will not be a TV prop, he said.
"This is the real deal," Margera said last week over a bowl of clam chowder in a borough restaurant. "I just want to own a piece of West Chester."
Margera is a regular patron at borough shops, bars and restaurants, attracting gaggles of onlookers. The showman humbly counts himself, electronic retailer QVC, and West Chester University as three of the area's major draws.
By a 5-2 vote several months ago, the West Chester Council rejected the partners' plan to transfer a liquor license into the borough. Moore then agreed to move the license from Rex's across town into the theater. Rex's, which books mainly local acts and caters to a younger clientele, will close, Moore said.
Moore described the bilevel venue, which will accommodate 400 people, as a cross between World Cafe Live, the modern concert space in University City, and the Keswick Theatre, the old-fashioned Tudor revival showplace in Glenside. "It will be run like a true theater," Moore said.
Asked how he'd book name-brand acts, Margera said: "I've met every band I've ever wanted to see."
But to gain council approval, Margera will have to overcome what Fitzpatrick called a "perception problem."
That reputation is undeserved, said Margera's mother, April. "He's done a lot of good for this town," she said. "He's not the bad guy you might think."
For video of Bam Margera and Don Moore talking about the planned theater in West Chester, go to http://go.philly.com/bam